Mammogram and Breast Imaging Frequently Asked Questions

Mammograms save lives by x-ray imaging the breast and revealing healthy or cancerous breast tissue.


Do I need a referral to get a mammogram?

At Denver Health, you do NOT need a referral to get a screening mammogram if you are over 40 and have not had a mammogram within the past year. All patients need a referral for a diagnostic mammogram including those with changes to the breast including new lumps, nipple discharge, or skin changes.

What is the difference between a mammogram, breast imaging, or breast cancer testing/screening?

The terms are often used to describe the process of a patient receiving an x-ray of the breast to rule out breast cancer. The terms are used interchangeably.

What is a mammogram?

Mammography is the term to describe a radiograph (also known as an x-ray) taken of the breast tissue. The goal of a mammogram is to determine whether a patient has healthy breast tissue or if breast cancer has been detected.

A radiologist is a physician who specializes in reading x-rays. A radiologist will examine the x-rays to determine if the breast is healthy or if there is further need for additional examination to treat or rule out a breast cancer diagnosis.

What are the symptoms of breast cancer?

If you are concerned you may have symptoms of breast cancer, please schedule an appointment by calling 303-436-4949 and ask for an appointment for a mammogram to be screened for breast cancer. Symptoms of breast cancer can include but are not limited to lumps in the breast and around the armpit, pain the breast, changes in breast size, nipple discharge including blood and excluding breast milk, nipple pain, irritation of breast skin, and thickening or swelling of the breast.

How long does a mammogram take?

A mammogram procedure takes around 15 minutes from checking in at one of Denver Health’s imaging centers to completing the procedure. The actual imaging of the breast takes just 20-30 seconds for an image to be rendered.

Do I need to remove my clothes for a mammogram?

The x-ray technician will have the patient remove any clothing from the waist up that covers the breast tissue including a bra and shirt. The x-ray technician will provide the patient with a gown to wear to ensure privacy as the x-ray procedure takes place.

Do mammograms hurt?

Mammograms do not hurt; however, some individuals describe a mammogram as an uncomfortable pressure applied to the breasts when the x-ray equipment comes in contact with the chest for about 20-30 seconds. The uncomfortable sensation is minimal and temporary. Relief is almost always immediately felt after the procedure is completed.

Does Denver Health offer advanced mammography technology like 3D mammograms?

The breast is x-rayed at different angles and each image is collected and assembled, building one 3D image that the radiologist assesses. 3D mammograms are offered at Denver Health’s breast imaging centers and focus on breast cancer screenings for patients with no signs or symptoms of breast cancer. Because of advanced technology in creating a 3D image of the breast, radiologists can view a complete picture of the breast and any breast abnormalities. The 3D mammography technology is beneficial as it frequently reduces the need for follow-up imaging and improves visualizations of atypical growths and breast cancer.